Page 1 of 1

catchwords and catchphrases - what counts?

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2002 8:27 am
by Archived Topic
How would you decide whether a word or phrase has achieved this status? For instance "comfort food" probably qualifies, but how about "comfort level"
Submitted by dale hileman (Apple Valley, CA - U.S.A.)

catchwords and catchphrases - what counts?

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2002 8:41 am
by Archived Reply
IMHO, neither is likely ever to qualify as catchphrase and probably not a catchword either.

Some examples of catchphrases:
The Fonz's "AAaaaaayyy!" (Happy Days)
Mork from Ork's "Nanu nanu!" (Mork & Mindy)
Steve Urkel's "Did I do that?" (Family Matters)
Joey Tribiani's "Hey, how YOU doin'?" (Friends & Joey)
Homer Simpson's "D'oh!" (The Simpsons)
Reply from Russ Cable (Dallas, TX - U.S.A.)

catchwords and catchphrases - what counts?

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2002 8:56 am
by Archived Reply
Dale, a catchword is 'a word or expression repeated until it becomes representative of a party, school, or point of view' (Merriam-Webster). A catchphrase is 'an expression that has caught on and is used repeatedly' (Merriam-Webster).

However, the M-W definition does not quite capture the essential point that Russ has identified, which is its close association with a well-known individual or cultural phenomenon in whose context it has become popular.

In any case, Russ is correct in his view that your examples of 'comfort food' and 'comfort level' qualify neither as catchwords nor catchphrases, since they both lack a clear association with a well-known entity.

I would suggest that one of the most prolific current generators of catchwords in the English language is probably George "Don't misunderestimate me" Bush, whose eccentric locutions, prominent position and struggle for re-election make him a natural focus of interest among both his supporters and his detractors.
Reply from Erik Kowal ( - England)

catchwords and catchphrases - what counts?

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2002 9:10 am
by Archived Reply
From Websters

Catchword

Noun1. A favorite saying of a sect or political group.

******************************

Catchphrase

Noun1. A phrase that has become a catchword

Reply from Dave Schroder (Dayton, Ohio - U.S.A.)

catchwords and catchphrases - what counts?

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2002 9:25 am
by Archived Reply
Dale and Erik, I have found no consistent definition of exactly what qualifies as a ‘catchphrase/catch phrase/catch-phrase’ (see discussion below). But after reading several articles on the subject it seems to me that the Merriam-Webster Online definition (and every other dictionary definition I have seen – and most don’t agree with each other) is too vague to really nail things down. Does a ‘catchphrase’ have to be current (does it have a ‘shelf life’)? How does it differ from a ‘slogan’ or ‘catchword’? . . . . . .

M-W Unabridged says that it is a ‘phrase that has become a ‘catchword’ and goes on to define ‘catchword as “a) a sloganlike and telling word or expression caught up and repeated so that it becomes representative of a political party or belief, a school of thought, or a point of view? or b) a word or phrase distinctive of a subject, scheme of thought, or point of view used especially for effect by one having only superficial acquaintance with the subject or scheme of thought.”

It is interesting that the above M-W Unabridged definition would probably exclude three-quarters of the catchphrases in the two books I have on the subject (‘The Oxford Dictionary of Catch Phrases and Partridge’s ‘A Dictionary of Catch Phrases.’). And ‘The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage definition would probably eliminate the rest: “A phrase that catches on quickly and is repeatedly used with direct or indirect allusion to its first occurrence.”

Using any of the definitions we have seen so far, would, for example, the expression ‘eat my shorts’ be considered a ‘catch phrase.’ Hmm, party, school, point of view? What about ‘caught on and IS used repeatedly’? Well it did catch on and was in the past used repeatedly, but IS it still used repeatedly (and how repeatedly is repeatedly and far in the past is too far? Is the expression now passed its prime and fallen out of catchphrasehood?

Random House says of ‘catchphrase: 1) a phrase that attracts or is meant to attract attention. 2) a phrase, as a slogan, that comes to be widely and repeatedly used, often with little of the original meaning.

The Oxford English Dictionary includes 48 quotes containing ‘catch-phrase,’ but fails to define it other than to say of the prefix ‘catch’: ‘that [which] catches or is meant to catch the eye, ear, fancy, etc.’

Gramb’s Words on Words says: “A common or appealing phrase in popular, often unthinking usage; watchword or slogan.

Burchfield’s ‘The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage confidently says: “A phrase that catches on quickly and is repeatedly used with direct or indirect allusion to its first occurrence. The word is first recorded in the mid-19th century. The adoption of catchphrases from popular songs, films, slogans, advertisements, etc. has become a marked feature of the language in the 20th-century.” He than goes on to mention Erik Partridge’s book on ‘catch phrases.’ But in the introduction to his ‘Dictionary of Catch Phrases’ Erik Partridge says in effect that he doesn’t know the definition of a ‘catch phrase,’ but that you will probably recognize one when you see it:

“Friends – and others – have often asked me ‘What the devil is a catch phrase? “I DON’T KNOW.” But I do know that my sympathy lies with the lexicographers. Consult the standard dictionaries, the best and the greatest: you will notice that they tacitly admit the impossibility of precise definition. Perhaps cravenly, I hope that the following brief ‘wafflings’[[his 384 page book on ‘catch phrases’]] will be reinforced by the willingness of readers to allow that ‘example is better than precept’ and thus enable me to ‘get away with it.’ . . . A pen-friend tells me the best definition he has seen is this [[with preferred word substitutions provided by Partridge]]: ‘A catch phrase is a [saying] that has caught on, and pleases the [public].’
________________________

The introduction to ‘The Oxford Dictionary of Catch Phrases’ avoids any attempt at a definition but after giving several examples – some familiar and some not so familiar (as ‘wait and see,’ will the real ___, please stand up,’ ‘life is a state of mind,’ ‘you bet your sweet bippy,’ ‘no problem!’– says the following:

“This illustrates the curious duality of catch phrases. There is an undeniable ephemerality about them—David Crystal [author of ‘The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language’] has characterized them as language ‘on the wing.’ But for people exposed to them at an impressionable time of life . . . they stick in a corner of the mind, and cataloguing someone’s mental horde of catch phrases [[so catch phrases are subjective and can be in the eyes of the beholder and old?]] is almost as reliable a diagnostic of their age and interests as counting the growth rings is in determining the age of a tree.”
_________________________

So is ‘comfort food’ a catchphrase and ‘comfort level’ not or are both catchphrases or neither?— after reading the above, you tell me! (<:)

Ken – September 28, 2004



Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)

catchwords and catchphrases - what counts?

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2002 9:39 am
by Archived Reply
Thanks guys
Will mull over till my dictionary is done and I am 81
Reply from dale hileman (Apple Valley, CA - U.S.A.)

catchwords and catchphrases - what counts?

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2002 9:53 am
by Archived Reply
dale;
Till, is a soil deposited by a glacier. Just thought you would like to know?
Reply from Dave Schroder (Dayton, Ohio - U.S.A.)

catchwords and catchphrases - what counts?

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2002 10:08 am
by Archived Reply
Quite so, Dave. But 'till' is also a synonym for 'until'. (Remember "Till death do us part"?)
Reply from Erik Kowal ( - England)

catchwords and catchphrases - what counts?

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2002 10:22 am
by Archived Reply
Quite so, Erik. But, till is not the same as 'till.
Reply from Dave Schroder (Dayton, Ohio - U.S.A.)

catchwords and catchphrases - what counts?

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2002 10:37 am
by Archived Reply
You are right. 'Till does not exist, and (while we're in this area) 'til is a useless affectation.
Reply from Erik Kowal ( - England)

catchwords and catchphrases - what counts?

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2002 10:51 am
by Archived Reply
Sorry Erik, that one went over my head.
Reply from Dave Schroder (Dayton, Ohio - U.S.A.)

catchwords and catchphrases - what counts?

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2002 11:05 am
by Archived Reply
Thinking it over I vote for "til" as it obviates 3 keystrokes
Reply from dale hileman (Apple Valley, CA - U.S.A.)

catchwords and catchphrases - what counts?

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2002 11:20 am
by Archived Reply
What will you do with all the time you save this way, Dale?
Reply from Erik Kowal ( - England)

catchwords and catchphrases - what counts?

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2002 11:34 am
by Archived Reply
Erik, to compile a dictionary:
OFFBEAT, JOCULAR, OR INTRIGUING NEOLOGISMS, CATCH WORDS, SLANG, AND A FEW EUPHEMISMS CURRENT IN LATTER 20th AND EARLY 21st CENTURY

Also cultivating a small garden

Reply from dale hileman (Apple Valley, CA - U.S.A.)